Though I often talk about the value of living well, even I have my limits of where I choose to spend my time. I like my sleep. A lot. And because I now have three elderly dogs, there is less and less of it around my house. Because of this, I’ve had to cut corners in the morning, making room for the necessities and trying to eke out the last few minutes of sleep before I begin my work day.
That translates to a quick-and-dirty coffee routine. Instead of boiling water at juuuust the right temperature and only using beans with a pedigree, you can find me most morning, bleary-eyed, sipping on Cafe Bustelo instant coffee or microwaving Folger’s throughout the day. And you know what? I love it. There. I said it. I love bad coffee
It’s not that I don’t appreciate “good coffee.” I just can’t be bothered to make it myself. I know that filtered water, using whole beans, and a pourover system will make a superior product, but there’s almost a sense of anarchy in my decision to regress to the same sorts of coffee habits I had when I was living in a dormitory at university. For me, coffee isn’t a romanticized ritual; it’s simply a vehicle to ingest the most caffeine into my body as quickly as possible.
Because of this, I’m quite happy to measure out a couple tablespoons into some microwaved hot water of instant espresso five minutes before my first Zoom call of the day. I’m content knowing I’m saving a few bucks and buying the cheap stuff and measuring by sight instead of by an electric scale. I have no shame in knowing my palate is unrefined and my coffee habits are luddite. But the extra few minutes I have in the morning to sit in bed, under the covers, are worth more to me than a bodied, aromatic cup of Joe.
I don’t expect everyone to adopt my coffee habits. In fact, I’m only slightly embarrassed of them myself. But I do wonder if we were to strip away Instagram, how many people would be wasting their time on a Chemex? Yes, there is something sexy about the cold, clear carafe on the countertop. But let me ask you: Does your Chemex have an autotimer set for 7 am? Is a fresh pot awaiting you when you stumble out of bed after a night of too many drinks? Of course not. Bad coffee and a cheap old Mr. Coffee has done more for my hangovers than aesthetics ever have.
If I still haven’t convinced you to come over to the Dark (Roast) Side, or if you’re weary of your taste buds not loving the acidic burn of the cheap shit, there are a few ways to spruce up a cup of bad coffee to be more palatable and in-line with some of the better options out there.
Add a Pinch of Salt: Adding roughly ¼ teaspoon of salt to 12 tablespoons of grounds helps to neutralize some of the acidity that cheap coffee can sometimes have, even if brewed well.
Add Cinnamon: Another method of improving taste is to add cinnamon to the grounds. Cinnamon has a warm, nutty flavor that overpowers some of the less palatable elements of “bad” coffee
Add Ice: While I like my coffee hot, there is a flavor change that happens when coffee is put over ice. The ice waters down the flavor while also mellowing some of the rough edges to the cheaper coffees
Like wine, watches, and even denim, there will also be gradients of luxury in nearly every industry. Given the choice, I’ll also go for the higher end stuff, but for the life of me, I can’t seem to break the habit of reaching for the big red tub of Folger’s in the morning and smiling while my decade-old coffee pot hisses and sputters out a subpar cup of coffee when it’s done percolating. Call me lazy. Call me unrefined. But I’m happily caffeinated and ready to take on the day while many of my friends are waiting for their water to boil to exactly 195-degrees.